NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
GREENVILLE An affidavit reveals a Hunt County Judge made disparaging comments toward county commissioners and vowed they would 'pay one way or another' in the forthcoming judgment of a suit the judge recused himself from hearing.
Judge Steve Tittle, of the 196th District Court in Greenville, was set to preside over a suit brought on by the Hunt County Commissioners Court against the six contractors who built the county jail, which they say is falling apart.
They allege the 13-year-old complex has cracks in the floor and that daylight peeks through gaps in the walls. The suit says the floor slopes so badly workers have had to cram lumber between the walls and baseboards.
The suit seeks damages of between $15 million and $30 million to cover repair costs.
Tittle was set to hear the case. He cut tens of thousands of dollars in funds to the Hunt County Adult Probation Department after a friend of his lost her job there in 2011. He waived supervision fees that probationers pay to the department, which is its primary source of income.
In the wake of the firing, Tittle attempted to force his friend's manager to appear before him during dozens of cases involving probationers that he did not immediately supervise.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that the judge did not have the legal authority to request that order.
Tittle's animus toward the county has apparently grown since then.
In a motion filed by the county to recuse him from the case, his former court reporter says in an affidavit that Tittle told her, 'the commissioners are too stupid to understand they have a big lawsuit pending in my court and they will pay one way or the other.'
'I don't know of too many more egregious statements a judge can make,' said John Browning, who represents the county in its move to have Tittle removed from the case.
The court reporter has since been terminated.
In court records, Tittle also reportedly threatened to duct-tape the mouth of Hunt County Assistant District Attorney Lauren Hudgeons. Records show Tittle characterized her statements as 'outbursts' and said, 'should there be any funny outbursts, Ms. Hudgeons, the court does have duct tape, does have a notepad, and does have a pen.'
He then suggested she could write her questions and someone else would read them to the court.
Hudgeons was never duct-taped as the judge threatened. She declined to discuss the incident.
Hunt County moved to have Tittle recused on Monday. On Tuesday, he removed himself from the case.
In a statement to both parties involved, Tittle said the court's 'heavy docket' would prevent him from conducting a lengthy trial.
He said he requested another judge be assigned to hear the case several weeks ago.